Tuesday I linked to former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer’s Washington Post op-ed stating that there was never any "formal" understanding allowing Israel to continue building within the "construction line" of settlements. That night, another former Bush administration official, Elliott Abrams, said the U.S.-Israel agreement on settlements may not have been a formal agreement, but it was significant and the United States should honor it.
Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the American Jewish Committee’s Washington chapter, Abrams, who served as deputy national security adviser, said that there was not a "treaty or memorandum of understanding," but that the agreement — laid out in a 2004 letter from President Bush to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — was mentioned in a "thousand different memos."
"The notion that there was nothing there because it isn’t a treaty signed with melting wax isn’t fair," said Abrams. He added that the "context" of the agreement must also be considered — pointing out that Sharon wanted to withdraw from Gaza and used the assurances he gained on settlements as political cover to "enable him to survive."
"Israel relied on that letter and on those promises in doing something bold and dangerous," he said. "It just seems wrong to say that the president has changed," so the agreement is no longer applicable.